Robert Abela tells European Council president, Malta needs 'concrete action' on migration

Prime Minister tells European Council President Malta's border is also an EU border as he calls for European concrete action on migration

President of the European Council Charles Michel is taken on a helicopter ride with Prime Minister Robert Abela and Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri
President of the European Council Charles Michel is taken on a helicopter ride with Prime Minister Robert Abela and Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri

Malta needs "concrete action" by the EU on migration, Prime Minister Robert Abela said as he accompanied European Council President Charles Michel on an army helicopter that took them on a flight over the Maltese islands.

Michel arrived in Malta yesterday evening for a short visit. Today the Council president visited the site of Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder.

During yesterday’s meeting with the Prime Minister, Michel heard about the challenges Malta was facing as a result of migratory flows.

Abela called for increased burden sharing among EU member states as he outlined the limitations Malta faced.

“Our reality is that every morning the Commander of the Armed Forces of Malta reports to us that there are a number of boats from Libya, and on them, 90,100 or 120 immigrants. This is the reality that Malta and Gozo face every day,” he said.

Abela insisted on the importance of a permanent mechanism allowing for the relocation of rescued immigrants. Referring to the Maersk Etienne case, he said that had each member state taken in one immigrant each, the situation would have been resolved quicker.

“Our armed forces have saved thousands of lives, but unfortunately we cannot simply speak of solidarity anymore - we need concrete action,” Abela added.

While acknowledging comments by European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen on a balanced and humane solution to immigration, Abela added that this should be done by actively listening to countries hit hardest by immigration.

Abela spoke of the challenges faced by Libya throughout the immigration crisis, saying that despite being a victim in this scenario, they often come up with better solutions to these issues than Europe does.

He also alluded to the incident in Lesbos which saw Moria, Europe’s largest migrant camp, destroyed in a fire, leaving 13,000 migrants stranded. Four migrants residing in the camp had allegedly started the fire in protest against overcrowding conditions at the camp.

“It is no longer a solution to continue receiving money to keep immigrants in Malta - the solution is to have burden sharing. After all, this is not only the border of Malta, but the border of the European Union,” the Prime Minister said.

Malta and Italy have experienced an influx of migrant arrivals from Libya this year, a situation made worse by the health emergency prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abela had travelled to Libya seeking greater cooperation from the UN-recognised government to curb departures. Joint coordination centres in Valletta and Tripoli were also set up between the Armed Forces of Malta and the Libyan coastguard.

READ ANALYSIS: Numbers tell a different story: it’s the State that must not neglect migrants and our communities